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Doris Buffett (1928–2020), philanthropist who was Warren Buffett’s sister

by Linnea Crowther

Doris Buffett was a philanthropist who was the older sister of billionaire Warren Buffett and helped with his charitable giving efforts.

Giving away all her money

Buffett, like her brother, received a large inheritance from her parents, and she was determined to use it to benefit others rather than keep it to herself. Calling herself a “retail philanthropist,” she had a goal of giving away her entire fortune during her lifetime. She did this in part through the foundations she created. Her Sunshine Lady Foundation helps provide education and other opportunities for the disadvantaged. The Letters Foundation, which she founded with her brother, offers “last resort” grants to people with severe financial difficulties. And her Learning by Giving Foundation encourages philanthropic giving on college campuses.

Buffett preferred not to donate to what she called “S.O.B.’s” – symphonies, operas, and ballets – believing that they were sufficiently funded by “largesse” and her money was better given to individuals in need. When, in 2006, Warren Buffett announced that he would give away most of his fortune before his death, he asked his sister to help him sort through the many requests for aid that he received. She recruited a team of friends to make recommendations and monitor the impact of his gifts. Her 2010 book, “Giving it All Away: The Doris Buffett Story,” discusses her life as a philanthropist.

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Buffett on her philosophy of giving

“I do consider these as investments rather than giveaways, and I’m looking for a good return on them. The best return is when lives change for the better in some way, that’s the commanding thought behind all I do.” —from a 2011 interview with the New York Times

What people said about her

Full obituary: The New York Times

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